There are about 1.2 gazillion guys taken in each June baseball draft.
OK, actually it’s 1.2 metric gazillion, which works out to about 1,200 (30 teams x 40 rounds).
Aaron Barbosa was not one of them.
He was a Massachusetts kid from Northeastern, whose urban campus is wedged into Boston just south of Fenway Park.
He was the school’s all-time leader in stolen bases, and set the school record for hits in a season.
But going to school and setting records within spittin’ distance of the Green Monster didn’t quite get him lifted into draft territory. His college slash line was .331/.389/.405 with 69 steals in 81 attempts, but his 5-foot-10, 157-pound frame apparently didn’t knock anyone’s socks off.
So he did what many Bay Staters do, and headed out to summer on the Cape. Harwich, to be specific, of the legendary Cape Cod League. And there he kept doing what he’d been doing in college, except with wood bats and against better pitching. In 27 games he hit .344/.402/.366 with 19 steals in 22 tries.
As we know, Tom McNamara‘s scouting team loves the northeastern kids (or, in this case, both northeastern and Northeastern), and, with Barbosa a free agent after being passed over in the draft, the Mariners offered him a contract.
That sent him to Pulaski, where he arrived July 25 and didn’t stop hitting until he helped lift the Appalachian League championship trophy at the end of the year: .356/.455/.416. He split time between center and left, and ended up with 36 hits and 19 walks in just 30 games. Then he added nine more hits in four post-season games, including a 4-for-4 night in the playoff opener.
And, funny thing, after going 19-of-22 on steal attempts on the Cape, he went 19-of-22 again in Pulaski.
So. College kid goes into the low minors and gets a lot of hits with a high BABIP. Seen that movie before. [Speaking of movies, there is a movie about the Cape Cod League, and, wow, it’s not exactly “critically acclaimed.”]
Q. Then why does Barbosa earn a blip on our Spectometer scan?
A. Plate skills!
Barbosa struck out just 78 times in three years of college (741 PAs), and just 14 times for Pulaski (123 PAs).
It’s in the math:
- fewer K = more balls in play
- more BIP + Law of Averages = more hits
- more BIP + Law of Averages + speed = even more hits
When a guy with micro-low K% and speed gets BABIP in his favor, then watch out.
And he doesn’t have to look far for an idol in the “little guy with the micro-low K% who gets on base a ton” category. Dude named Pedroia who played down the street.
Or, since Pedroia hits righty, maybe you’d look to another 5-10 LH OF who was impossible to strike out: Lenny Dykstra (we’re not seeking financial advisors here). [And another guy with the low-K + speed combo is Jose Reyes, also in the 200-hit, batting champ, MVP-vote-getter class.]
Of course, Barbosa is a looooong way from anything like that.
There’s a very good chance he’ll end up as just another face in the crowd at Fenway.
But … you never know, and that’s why we try to scope these guys out in advance.